Each of the synoptic gospels gives us insight into a character trait that the Lord Jesus Christ possessed, one that every follower of His ought to strive personally to cultivate: compassion. It is a rare find today to see it evidenced in our skeptic-riddled world, which is so distrustful, so doubting and dubious of the motives of our fellow mankind.
Mark says that when Jesus saw a great multitude, He was moved with compassion toward them and He healed their sick. (Mark 14:14)
Matthew reports that upon seeing two blind men sitting by the wayside near Jericho, Jesus had compassion on then and touched their eyes and immediately their eyes received sight. (Matt. 20:34)
He healed a man’s son that had been possessed by a dumb spirit that caused him to foam and gnash with his teeth and pine away. In desperation the boy’s father pled with Jesus “…if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us….” (Mark 9:22)
And, when a funeral procession passed by near the city of Nain where Jesus was walking with His disciples, the Lord noticed the weeping widow distraught over her now deceased son and He said simply, “Weep not,” and then the son sat up in the bier alive again, as Luke noted that Jesus had compassion on the grieving widow. (Luke 7:13)
He also fed a multitude of thousands of people who had not eaten in three days, saying, “I have compassion on the multitude.” (Matt. 15:32)
Then, too, Jesus came upon a lonely leper who knelt down before Him and begged “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him and saith unto him, ‘I will, be thou clean.’” (Mark 1:41)
So, how does your compassion barometer read these days? In July of 1988 the U.S. Navy Cruiser USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian Airliner with 290 aboard leaving no survivors. The ship’s captain mistakenly thought they were under attack, so he ordered the defensive action. In the weeks following, public opinion polls indicated that most Americans did not favor paying the Iranian victim’s families any compensation for their tragic losses. The Iranian’s holding of 52 plus American hostages still lingered fresh upon America’s collective mind, but President Ronald Reagan approved the compensation and when asked by reporters why he would do that and whether he did not think it might send a wrong signal, the magnanimous President replied, “I don’t ever find compassion is a bad precedent.”
A crippled evangelist of yesteryear known as Hop Hadley was chasing a backslidden convert who was drunk down a city street into a side alley. Finally, exhausted by the chase, the handicapped preacher leaned up against a light pole, tears streaming down his cheeks. Under the dark shadows in a dirty, dank alley the drunken man suddenly reversed his course heading back to where the preacher was, saying “I can outrun your feet, but I can’t outrun your tears.”
I read some years ago in Pulpit Helps about a man who had fallen into a pit. One person came along and said, “I feel for you down there!” Another fellow hollered, “I figured someone would fall down there sooner or later,” while a pious hypocrite said, “Only bad people fall into pits!” Then a fake news reporter chimed in: “Can I have the exclusive story on your fall?” The IRS man wanted to know if he had paid taxes on that property or did he have an exemption? A self-absorbed person opined, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the pit I am in!” And, of course, there were the optimist and pessimist who said respectively, “Cheer up, things will get better,” and “Just wait, it can and will get worse!” And Jesus came along, noting the man’s predicament and extended His helping hand lifting him out of the pit.
Spurgeon reminded his audience on one occasion that the New Testament writers employed a word for compassion that called to mind in its root form one’s entrails or inward parts, meaning “sympathy, pity, affection, compassion,” denoting that Jesus was moved to the core of His being when He considered the plight of a sin-laden, suffering, sick humanity. Spurgeon said, “It is expressive of the deepest emotion, a striving of the bowels, a yearning of the inner most nature with pity.”
How long has it been since you have been so moved for or about anyone or anything?
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)